Feb 212024

The Harbour, Harbour Terrace, North Berwick, EH39 4SS 

Stone building with an angular roof up a driveway and set right on the coast; blue skies and water in the background.
The Scottish Seabird Centre
©Edward McMaihin, Geograph

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick is a conservation charity and visitor centre, dedicated to the research and protection of seabird wildlife on The Bass Rock, as well as across the Firth of Forth, and further afield. The most iconic are the local colonies of puffins, pelagic seabirds with brightly coloured beaks that feed primarily by diving in the water. These unique birds can be found on many of the uninhabited islands in the Firth of Forth.

The Scottish Seabird Centre was opened by a team of local ornithologists in May 2000. Their goal was to use technologies, such as webcams, to enable locals to witness life on the surrounding seabird colonies in the Firth of Forth without disturbing the wildlife. The Centre not only has a role in sharing knowledge and interest for the marine wildlife, but also participates in its conservation by running several projects like recruiting volunteers to protect the puffins from invasive plant species on the island of Craigleith and cleaning the North Berwick beaches.

Rocky island with green foliage; dark blue waters in the foreground and light blue skies in the background.
The Island of Craigleith
©Mark Anderson, Geograph

The webcams in the Seabird Centre facilitate viewing from afar a kittiwake colony in Dunbar, the gannets of Bass Rock, and the puffins of Craigleith Island and the Isle of May. The Centre is also the departure point for boat trips to some islands of the Firth of Forth which are home to many seabird species (Bass Rock, Craigleith, the Lamb and the Isle of May). 

Tens of grey and white birds nesting on a grey rock cliff.
A busy colony of kittiwakes nesting on a cliff
©Julie St. Louis, PIXNIO


Individual Researcher Walk; Scottish Seabird Centre (webpage)

Additional Links:

  • https://www.seabird.org/ (The Scottish Seabird Centre website for links to the webcam and current conservation projects)

Feb 212024
Large rock at sea with a white building on one cliff; a white sailboat is visible in the foreground amidst blue seas and skies.
The Bass Rock, covered by nesting Gannets
©Ben Clarke, Wikimedia Commons

Bass Rock is an uninhabited island which lies in the Firth of Forth off North Berwick. Despite its rocky landscape, it was a royal jail in the 17th century, nicknamed the ‘Scottish Alcatraz’. Sold to the Hamilton-Dalrymple family, it was then used as a seabird hunting ground, a sheep grazing area, and a site to collect eggs or fish.

Profile photo of a white and brown bird in flight that has some tan coloring on its head.
A Northern Gannet
©jacme31, Wikimedia Commons

It is now a nature reserve, home to more than 150,000 birds and the world’s largest colony of Northern Gannets. The scientific name of gannets Morus Bassanus derives from the Bass Rock and its key role for gannet populations. In fact, the Gannets of Bass Rock faced a dramatic decline in 2022 due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza which killed more than 5,000 birds on the island.

The Bass Rock’ distinctive shape and interesting past inspired many works of fiction, from Catriona by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Lion Is Rampant by Ross Laidlaw, Tge New Confessions by William Boyd and the 2021 Stella Prize-winning The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. Though access is restricted as not to disturb the nesting birds, the Bass Rock can be visited by a number of boat tours from North Berwick.


Individual Researcher Walk; Scottish Seabird Centre; The Scotsman

Additional Links: